WASHINGTON — Recent studies have shown that hurricanes named with traditionally female names tend to be approximately twice as deadly as similar catastrophes with male names. Researchers have found that a hurricane with a female name — like Katrina— is expected to be mild and lull people into a false sense of security, such that they fail to take the appropriate safety measures. The researchers suggest that this kind of unconscious bias is caused by societal perceptions of females as weaker and gentler than male counterparts.
Always optimistic, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has decided to view unconscious social biases as an asset. “When we say that this Hurricane is a Category 1, 2, or 5, no one gets it. It doesn’t really promote a visceral reaction. People just don’t take it seriously,” a FEMA spokesman explained. In order to get people to respond appropriately to powerful and dangerous hurricanes, the agency is experimenting with a new rating system.
An internal memo from the disaster management agency states: “If a hurricane is legitimately dangerous and likely to cause massive amounts of damage— the equivalent of a Category 4 or 5— we will give it a stereotypical African-American name, such as ‘Tyrone.’ The population will unwittingly fear this, and take all necessary precautions to minimize loss of life and property. A slightly milder hurricane might be called ‘Hurricane Pedro,’ while the calmest hurricanes would be titled something like, ‘Yang’ or ‘Chadwick.’
When asked for comment, the spokesperson defended the agency, saying, “Everyone understands ethnic stereotypes, whether they like it or not. It’s about time that communications to the public came in a language they understood.”
Although unconfirmed, future FEMA plans include naming hurricanes after political issues, with “Hurricane Equal Rights” being on the milder end of the scale and “Hurricane Abortion” being on the severe end of the spectrum.